Le Pen supporters Aurelien Morissard/IP3/Getty Images

Who Is Marine Le Pen?

Marine Le Pen almost certainly will not become president of France next month. But, simply by reaching the election's second round, she has transformed the face and psyche of France for a long time to come.

PARIS – I vividly remember French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s first appearance on television. It was just before the 2002 presidential campaign, and I had to moderate a debate on French public television. For political balance, we needed a representative of the far-right National Front (FN), then led by Le Pen’s father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Bruno Gollnisch, the manager of Jean-Marie’s campaign and his heir apparent, turned us down, offering to send Marine instead.

It was obviously a trick played not just on a media viewed as hostile, but also on Le Pen herself – a rival whom Gollnisch resented for having been, in his view, unduly promoted by her father in the FN apparatus. Le Pen was a largely unknown 33-year-old lawyer with little practice, though she had an obvious instinct for the punch line. In the end, Gollnisch’s plan may have backfired: a few days after Le Pen’s appearance, the headline in a weekly magazine read, “What is new with the FN? Marine!”

On April 21, 2002 – a date that still resonates in French political memory – the 73-year-old Jean-Marie received 17% of the vote in the first round of the presidential election, thus knocking the former socialist prime minister, Lionel Jospin, out of the second-round runoff. But citizens of all persuasions then rallied against Le Pen in a so-called “Republican front,” giving the conservative candidate Jacque Chirac a massive 82% of the vote.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

http://prosyn.org/j4qhXz2;
  1. haass102_ATTAKENAREAFPGettyImages_iranianleaderimagebehindmissiles Atta Kenare/AFP/Getty Images

    Taking on Tehran

    Richard N. Haass

    Forty years after the revolution that ousted the Shah, Iran’s unique political-religious system and government appears strong enough to withstand US pressure and to ride out the country's current economic difficulties. So how should the US minimize the risks to the region posed by the regime?

  2. frankel100_SpencerPlattGettyImages_mansitswithumbrellawallstreet Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    The US Recovery Turns Ten

    Jeffrey Frankel

    The best explanation for the current ten-year US economic expansion – tied for the longest since 1854 – is disappointingly simple: the Great Recession was the worst downturn since the 1930s. And if the dates of American business cycles were determined by the rule that most other countries apply, the current expansion would be far from beating the record.

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated cookie policy and privacy policy.